Divisional Round Weekend Predictions
Vikings @ 49ers
Pass Offense: 49ers
Run Offense: Tie
A lot of people love the upset in this game, but I want to break down how I think this 49ers game is going to go. The biggest headline for the Vikings this week has to be the momentum they carry coming out of the game vs the the Saints. The Vikings defensive game plan last week was to put their star defensive ends on the interior and get Drew Brees from the inside, this week that won't happen. If Zimmer tries the same thing, Kyle Shanahan will run the Vikings into the ground with outside zone and pre snap motions. The 49ers biggest headline has to be their defensive health. They are potentially getting three defensive starters back this week, Jaquiski Tartt who provides communication in the secondary, Kwon Alexander who's the emotional leader of the entire defense, and Dee Ford who gives the 49ers a true speed rusher on the outside. I think this helps the 49ers more than the public is giving them credit for. Offensively, I see Minnesota going to Stefon Diggs early and often. The 49ers have been a little suspect on the opposite side of Richard Sherman this season, so I can see them running double moves against Akhello Witherspoon. The one thing I have to say about Witherspoon is that when he struggles it's against more physical receivers like DK Metcalf, Michael Thomas, and Julio Jones. He's one of the best when it comes to pure footwork so I can see him playing tight on the Vikings receivers. For the 49ers on offense, it's Kyle Shanahan time... not only did the players get a week off, but Shanahan got a week to develop his playbook and take a deeper dive. I love this for San Francisco and I think they call up plays to expose Xavier Rhodes and put Anthoy Barr on an island having to use his eyes. Shanahan is going to exhaust this Vikings defense and have Minnesota "seeing ghosts".
How the Vikings Win: Establishing the run game early on the edges will keep Kevin Stefanski's playbook open. The 49ers defensive lines loves running stunts, but if they can't predict when Minnesota will pass the ball, the stunts will be ineffective.
How the 49ers Win: Getting Jimmy Garoppolo in a rhythm early and jumping out to an early lead. If Kirk Cousins has to throw the ball 40+ in this game, that favors the 49ers heavily and will help give this team momentum.
Game MVP: Jimmy Garoppolo 27/34 300 yards passing 2 touchdowns
Final Score: Vikings 20 vs 49ers 27
Titans @ Ravens
Pass Offense: Titans
Run Offense: Ravens*
This game, this game will be fun. The best team, versus the hottest team. These two teams are both very heavy run teams, but do it in such different ways. The Ravens have the arsenal, they have about 5 different guys who can break a big run while the Titans are going to pound you to death with Derrick Henry. This is the best running game versus the best running back. Both of these running games should have success, so I want to break down the other threats in this game. These are two of the up and coming passing games in the league. Lamar Jackson has been overall the best player in the league and everything he does is electric. I think Jackson will have some opportunities to throw against this defense. Kevin Byard and Logan Ryan are both great DB's, but Adoree Jackson is a little nicked up and the Ravens have Hollywood Brown. Adoree Jackson is one of the fastest players in the NFL, but if he has to run with Marquise Brown on a bad foot, there will be some deep ball opportunities. For Tennessee, I think AJ Brown is going to have a day. I know the Ravens have one of the best secondaries in the NFL, but I really like AJ Brown in one on one situations. I think he's the best rookie receiver in a filled 2019 receiver draft, and he's proven it the past month and a half. Baltimore is going to stack the box and try to stop Derrick Henry and put pressure on Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill has been one of the best quarterbacks against the blitz, so I like the Titans opportunity to pass the football in this game. I think this game is a high scoring affair and comes down to which ever team can get that "big play".
How the Titans Win: Keeping the game tight and not leaning as hard into the run game. Last week, it seemed like Derrick Henry was getting the ball when ever he was in the game. It looked as if the Patriots weren't interested in tackling the King. This week will be a lot different and if you can develop the passing game so the Ravens front seven starts playing a little bit softer, Derrick Henry will be able to run in the most convenient situations.
How the Ravens Win: If they can develop the run game early. Once Lamar Jackson gets going, there's no stopping him. Since Mark Ingram is a little banged up, give some carries to Gus Edwards. If the Ravens have over 200 rushing yards, they will win this game by multiple scores.
Game MVP: Gus Edwards 16 carries, 103 yards, 1 touchdown
Final Score: Titans 23 vs Ravens 31
Texans @ Chiefs
Pass Offense: Chiefs
Run Offense: Tie
This will be the best quarterback duel of the weekend. These are two of the three quarterbacks that we say are "the future of the NFL" and I truly believe this has the potential to be the biggest shootout of the playoffs. These are two high powered passing games that have potential to break a big run. Deshaun Watson might be the most fun player to watch with 2 minutes left in the game and Patrick Mahomes is the most mesmerizing player to watch throw the football. Defensively, there is no team hotter than the Chiefs. Tyrann Mathieu is playing at a different level right now, but they are without Juan Thornhill who's been getting hot in his rookie season. The Texans have one of my favorite safetys, Justin Reid, and I feel like they are either boom or bust depending what week it is. Patrick Mahomes is great against teams that run primarily zone based defense, so pending on what Romeo Crennel calls, that defense can be in for a long day. One thing I'd like to see the Texans do is take some shots down the field. If the Texans can keep Watson somewhat clean and throw downfield to Will Fuller I like Houston. This biggest thing that would scare me if I was a Texans fan is if Patrick Mahomes gets going early. Mahomes plays with swagger and momentum. If he starts clicking, he's basically unstoppable so that's what will help the Chiefs win this week. As a neutral fan, I want this game to be a high-scoring blow for blow shootout that comes down to one of these quarterbacks having to run a 2 minute drill.
How the Texans Win: Deshaun Watson puts on the superman cape once again and makes plays outside of the pocket. Keep this game close and let Watson have the ball in his hands late in the 4th quarter.
How the Chiefs Win: Get Patrick Mahomes in his zone. Mahomes is a baller and is practically unstoppable when he's hitting.
Game MVP: Patrick Mahomes 30/45 330 yards 3 touchdowns
Final Score: Texans 31 vs Chiefs 34
Seahawks @ Packers
Pass Offense: Seahawks
Run Offense: Packers
This could be a potential classic Packers, Seahawks playoff game. Russell Wilson has been the second best quarterback in the NFL this season while Aaron Jones has been one of the best tailbacks in the league. The Seahawks won in a sloppy game versus the Eagles last week and while I wouldn't say this is necessarily a huge momentum game, it gave these young players playoff experience. I want to see both teams utilize play-action this week, especially for Seattle when Marshawn Lynch is in. It's important for both teams that if you get up early in the game, you have to step on the other team's throat. You know why? Because on the other side of the field you got both Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers, two quarterbacks who are known what they can do in the two minute drill. The biggest mismatch in this game is the Packers defensive line versus the Seahawks offensive line. Zadarius Smith, Preston Smith, and Kenny Clark vs an injury riddle Duane Brown, Mike Iupati, and George Fant. One thing to watch in this game is what the Seahawks do in pass pro to keep the Smith brothers from getting to Russ. I wouldn't be surprised if Schotty (Seahawks offensive coordinator) started the game with quick passes and play action. According to Warren Sharp, the Packers don't have a single sack on play action passes in the first half. My favorite matchup in this game is the Seahawks WR's, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, versus the Packers CB's, Jaire Alexander and Keving King. Two position groups that are playing at a high level and should be fun to watch.
How the Seahawks win: This game stays close until the last 3 minutes where Russell Wilson has the ball in his hands and narrates a late drive down field to win the game for Seattle.
How the Packers win: The Packers defensive line gets hot and starts getting to Russell in a hurry. Aaron Jones gets going in the receiving game and has 2+ touchdowns.
Game MVP: Zadarius Smith 2 Sacks
Final Score: Seahawks 21 vs Packers 26